Which costs less: a restaurant remodel, or building from the ground up?

restaurant remodel

As a restaurant owner in Columbus, should you choose between a restaurant remodel or building an entirely new location from the ground up? 

Today, we’ll be sharing with you the costs (and benefits) of both choices. As you read, you’ll be able to determine which choice would be the most cost-effective option for your restaurant in the Columbus area.

The Case for New Restaurant Construction in Pickerington

According to a research study done by Restaurant Owner, the cost for a newly constructed restaurant averages around $650,000. The location will play a major factor in the overall cost of building from the ground up. Other factors that can fluctuate the costs include the cost of appliances, utilities, and designing the building to be up to code.

Benefits of Building Your Own Restaurant Location

The greatest advantage to building from the ground up is your creative control in its design. You can build it in a way that helps your restaurant stand out from the nearby competition. Of course, you’ll have some restrictions due to safety laws. However, the result will be your restaurant fulfilling your creative vision.

If you want to, you can add a section to the restaurant that serves a specific purpose. Examples include outdoor seating, , larger dining room, small event space, or expanded storage. Your imagination is your only limit.

From a financial standpoint, you have favor from lenders. Forbes shares that the Small Business Administration provides loans to owner-occupied real estate. This gives you plenty of options when seeking financing. With the financing, you often would only make interest-only payments until construction is complete. 

In the future, if you plan to sell the property, the resale value could be very high depending on how the building was designed.


While you may have multiple options for lenders, the overall cost will be significantly higher than remodeling an existing restaurant. This is because you need to get permits for every element of the building process. We call these “soft costs”. 

Examples of hard costs include the electrical system, appliances, and other safety-related equipment. Upfront, these can be expensive as opposed to using the appliances in a remodeled building. However, if you buy long-lasting, cost-effective equipment, you’ll save money in the long run.

Time will be the largest downside. Because you’re having the restaurant built from scratch, the time to completion could take around six months. You would need to account for that before making any moves at your current place of business. 

The Case for A restaurant Remodel in Pickerington Ohio

You could purchase a closed restaurant at an average cost of $275,000. Those costs can increase to an average of $425,000 for a closed building that needs to be retrofitted for food service. 

Location matters in this case, too. In this case, however, you need to look at competing restaurants nearby or next door to your purchased location.

Benefits of Remodeling an Existing Restaurant Location

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The two major advantages of remodeling are the time and money you save. 

If you want to move to a new location sooner than later, remodeling would be the best choice. The building is already there. If it’s a closed restaurant, it’ll likely already have the components you’d need for your restaurant. Most of the time would be spent adjusting the property to make it look how you want it to.

When it comes to money, you’d be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to a ground-up project. There isn’t much to spend on the construction. At most, you would be spending money to renovate the wiring and plumbing to be up to code. You also probably wouldn’t need to buy new equipment; the current ones should work just fine.

For the planning side of things, you may not need to spend too much time figuring out potential foot traffic. If there was a restaurant there before, it was likely placed somewhere that people often visited. However, when shopping around for locations, make sure to ask questions regarding why the previous business closed. That’s crucial info you should know before you begin operations.


If you decide to remodel a property, you’ll need to do extensive background checking. Did the previous restaurant owner bring in a lot of customers? Why is the previous owner selling? How will your restaurant stand out from the competition (because you’ll likely be next door to competitors)? 

While the property may be in a great location, there may be factors that could hurt your business.

Should this property pass your background check, most of your money would be spent on upgrades. Even if the equipment is already there, it may be too old or not efficient. That could drive up utility costs. 

Remodeling a Restaurant vs Commercial Renovation

There may be a point in your property search where you come across a property that wasn’t originally a restaurant. It’s in a great spot, you’d potentially get good foot traffic, and it’s a nice size. 

You can go this route as well since it’s still cheaper than building from the ground up. However, depending on how soon you want to start your project, anticipate increased costs in material and labor. 

Which Option Should You Choose?

When looking at the facts, it makes the most financial sense to renovate a closed restaurant. But it’s not that simple of a choice. There are plenty of other factors you’re looking into before taking the next steps.

If you value your time or want to move to a better location faster, then a restaurant remodel will be for you. Just remember that most of your money may be spent improving the property’s flaws, which could be a lot.

If you have a creative vision for your restaurant, a ground-up project will be for you. It will take several months before the beginning of operations. But you can use that time to strengthen your marketing efforts and build hype and anticipation for opening day.

If you see a property that wasn’t a restaurant before but is in a great spot, be prepared to spend on new equipment and restructuring. Otherwise, make the most out of the convenient location.

Helping You Design & Remodel Your Restaurant in Pickerington, Ohio

Sometimes, in order to make big decisions like this, you need to talk to an expert who has been in the restaurant and commercial remodeling space in Pickerington Ohio for years. 

Email us at info@heitmeyerbuild.com to get your restaurant remodel project started today. 

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